Revised 12/27/2005


Locket says, "The deception, ferocity, and misogyny in the play [Othello] can all find expression as Turkish derivatives." Locket starts by explaining the historic background of the Ottoman Empire and Europe's feelings about it. He shows how Europe was strained economically after the fall of the Byzantine Empire. Europe also suffered social strains from the enslavement of every fifth Christian boy for the Turk's armies. The first audiences of Shakespeare's plays would associate Turks with terror, notes Locket.

Locket asserts that the main Turk-like figure in Othello is Iago. Iago does some of the same things the audience thinks of when they think of Turks. Like the powerful Turkish fleet moving on Venice tells the Senate they move on Rhodes, Iago tells the other characters he is attacking someone else. Locket uses the line from Othello for his title to illustrate Iago picks up where the Turks leave off. Iago incites bloodshed in Cyprus after God destroys Turks in a storm. Locket's other Turk is Othello. Othello's origin as a Moor sets him up to wrestle with his dark Turkish side. Locket says that Othello acknowledges his darks side and overcomes it in the end making the tragedy complete.


Locket uses a historical world-based strategy to explain the Turkish element of the play. He spends a large portion of his essay explaining the intrigue that took place in 1604 to ground the reader in the social and political world of Shakespeare. To them, Turks were not just the enemy, they were a terror. The Turks were clearly aligned against the Christian God and evoked traits such as devious and deceptive. These traits make Iago a exemplary Turk-figure in Othello. Iago lies to pretty much everyone about everything. Iago hints at his Turkish nature when he says "or else I an a Turk." Here he emphatically says he is being honest which he in fact thinks he is at the moment. However, the audience can see he is wrong because Desdemona is virtuous. Iago also seems to agree with an Islamic philosophy of equal compensation when he says "wife for wife." Finally, Iago replaces the Turkish treat in the play itself. After the Ottomites are wrecked at sea, Iago goes on to do their work for them by provoking violence in the other characters. It's as if he the personification of the looming Turkish Empire trying to destroy the Christian world.

Othello, on the other hand, is a civil version of the evil Turks. Othello has the seeds of the Turks inside him and he lets that destructive nature get the best of him. Othello uses the image of the Black Sea, which is closely associated with the Ottoman Empire, to describe his "bloody thoughts." This image acts like the use of the word 'Turk' by Iago to allow the audience to make a quick comparison between the treat in the play and the treat they feel in real life. The finale of Othello is that Othello has seen the error of his Turkish ways and must die after sacrificing his wife, his honor, and his country's welfare.


For the most part, Locket defends his thesis quite well. After reading this essay it is easy to see how Iago represented a common fear, the Turks, though his deceptive actions. It would be about the same if a modern day villain were to evoke thoughts of terrorism. Locket's historical introduction which at first seems excessive lets the reader empathize with Shakespeare's original audience. I think the average person will find that his dissection of Iago's character makes Othello more meaningful. Locket's comparison between Othello and Turks will make the play even more meaningful. This comparison seems to be in the essay more out of completion than revelation. I found most of the observations about Othello to pretty obvious to the average person and not knowing them in the first place would make the play almost meaningless.

Locket also offers historical facts about Moslem customs which he thinks Othello might practice which make the play more meaningful. However, Locket himself says these ideas are mostly conjecture since there is little proof within the play to back him up. I still find this interpretation interesting whether or not it is true. On the down side, this does not help his argument as much even though it is very interesting.

Work Cited

Locket, Joseph. "'That Which Heaven Hath Forbid the Ottomites': The Turks in
Shakespeare's Othello." <>
18 November 2005.

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